Ed News, Friday, August 8, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

“Ignorance is the parent of fear.” 
 
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for informing the editor that the highly respected teacher and blogger Anthony Cody will be ending his column “Living in Dialogue” for EDUCATION WEEK.  He recaps his 6 year stint for the publication and reports that he will be debuting an independent blog also called “Living in Dialogue.”  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of his pieces and has found them to be insightful and informative and looks forward to featuring even more of his work as he makes this move.  For those of you who are big fans of Cody you can find his new home here.
 
Michelle Rhee constantly touts the “great success” she had boosting standardized test scores in Washington, D.C. when she was chancellor of schools there.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, looks at student results since 2009 (Rhee served as DCPS chief from 2007-10) and finds them less than stellar.  In fact, according to a chart she includes in her piece the only group of kids who gained over that period of time (and it was only 1.5 points) were “whites.”  Why do the so-called education “reformers” continue to trot her out as an exemplar of how to fix the public schools?  
 
The battle over teacher tenure continues.  AFT President Randi Weingarten and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaragosa appeared on the “Morning Joe” show on Tuesday on MSNBC to support tenure and seniority rules.  The video runs 8:14 minutes.  They appeared to counter the previous day’s program that featured Campbell Brown and famed trial lawyer David Boies who argued against tenure and seniority.  This segment runs 8:16 minutes.  Watch them and you’ll get a good discussion of the issues from both sides.              The Jersey Jazzman deconstructs the  comments of lawyer David Boies, the latest celebrity to adopt the anti-tenure position and become a spokesperson for that side of the debate.                 The author of a piece in EDUCATION WEEK suggests the fight over tenure may come down to who can win the battle for public opinion.  “At this rate,” he implies, “teacher tenure may exceed the Common Core State Standards as an education policy lightning rod, even as a possible wedge issue in the midterm and 2016 elections.  One thing’s for sure: There’s a war out there to win public opinion on the merits, or demerits, of tenure laws.”                The legal team that supported the suit brought in the Vergara case has signed on to represent plaintiffs in one of the two tenure cases filed in New York.  They have cited many of the same research reports used in the California case.  A copy of their amended petition is included in this story, also in  EDUCATION WEEK.              Campbell Brown continues to gain attention with her recent appearance on the “Colbert Report” and her support for a couple of Vergara-type lawsuits filed in New York.  In this profile of her in Esquire the author asks “Who the Fck is Campbell Brown?”  The answer is not flattering: “Quite simply, Campbell Brown is not in this for the kids. She’s running a con on behalf of some pretty shady people.”
 
Students will return to classes in the LAUSD on Tuesday.  This past Tuesday Supt. John Deasy addressed district principals and administrators in a formal presentation at Garfield High School.  He touted increases in graduation rates and more robust funding but challenged the gathered minions to continue to reduce the dropout rate and to concentrate on those students most in need of help.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times outlines what he spoke about.
Daniel Willingham, a former ALOED book club author, looks at traditional student disciplinary practices and finds them very ineffective.  He titles his piece “Suspensions, Expulsions, Arrests Don’t Work: On Student Discipline, We Can Do Better” and it appears on REAL CLEAR EDUCATION.  He highlights a new report from the School Discipline Consensus Project that suggests a more positive atmosphere in classrooms and on school campuses will work much better.  “The overarching principle emphasized in the report,” he concludes, “is the creation of more positive environments in schools and classrooms, and more supportive relationships among students, teachers, and administration.”  Willingham summarizes 6 out of 60 of the suggested alternatives and includes a link to the full report (462 pages) titled “Strategies From the Field To Keep Students Engaged In School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System.”
The “Ed News” recently highlighted a new publication that might make for an interesting ALOED book club discussion.  It’s titled “50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools” written by David Berliner and Gene Glass.  Larry Ferlazzo of EDUCATION WEEK conducted an interview with the authors in which they discussed a few of the “myths and lies” about education in the U.S. referred to in their work. 
 
A Teach for America member was hired to work at a charter school in financially troubled Detroit.  She describes her experiences in an article in JACOBIN magazine. Unfortunately, she found the charter was more interested in making a profit than helping students, one of whom she features.  “As I’d eventually discover,” she laments, “mismanagement and opportunistic ‘education entrepreneurs,’ more than pedagogical excellence, defined the charter school system that was supposed to be serving students.”  This was the second of a 2-part series in the magazine exploring charter schools in New Orleans and Detroit.  Part 1, focused on the switch to an all-charter system in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, and found the results “devastating.”  “The state of education in New Orleans is often presented as a sort of grand bargain:” it begins, “on the one hand, the neoliberal transformation has been undemocratic and has marginalized community members, parents, and educational professionals; on the other hand, advocates of reform are quick to cite higher test and state school performance scores as evidence that the reforms have been successful. While the former is true, the claim that there has been substantial improvement in the educational experiences of young people is unfounded.”
 
California is in the process of retooling its school accountability system.  The state is trying to come up with a process that downplays student test score results as it redesigns the old Academic Performance Index (API).  How successful has the state been so far?  An article in EDUCATION WEEK looks at the status of reform in the Golden state.  It begins with an excellent review of what’s gone on in the past, what the new legislation hopes to accomplish by the mandated deadline of May, 2015, and where things stand as the new school year commences.               An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times commented on the overhaul of the API system and offered some suggestions on what should and should not be included in the new accountability formula.
 
Diane Ravitch is promoting a “Bold New Website for Teachers and Their Allies.”  It’s called “The Teacher Advocate” and can be found here.   She invited the creator Randy Hoover, a long-time public school social studies teacher and a Professor Emeritus at Youngstown State University, to describe what his goals and aims are for his new blog.  He gladly complied in Ravitch’s column.
And finally, California is in the midst of rolling out its unique Local Control Funding Formula, adopted in June, 2013, which features a new method for distributing state money to individual districts and schools based on student need.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK provides background to the legislation, where it stands currently and what is planned for the future.  Be sure to peruse the 3 sidebars which explain key terms, provide a timeline and offer some pertinent numbers and statistics.
 
   
 

Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71–That’s me happily working on the blog.)
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